Civics Essay Contest

Enter the Contest

Civics Contest Winners Announced

In conjunction with the Federal Judges Association, the FBA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Civics Essay and Video Contest. The first place essay winner is Delaney Patterson of Waxhaw, N.C., and the first place video winner is Alessia Fontecchio of Pittsburgh, Penn. Both Delaney and Alessia win $1,000, and they are invited to receive their awards during the FBA’s April 25 reception at the U.S. Supreme Court, which honors the induction of Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch as an Honorary Life Fellow of the Foundation of the FBA.

The Civics Contest was open to high school students in the United States and its Territories. Public, private, parochial, and charter schools as well as home-schooled students of equivalent grade status in the 9th through 12th grades were eligible to participate. The prompt for the contest was: “What does equal protection mean to students?” Entries considered how the Equal Protection Clause applies in high schools, colleges and graduate schools, whether in admissions, classrooms or on athletic fields. The top essays and videos clearly demonstrated an understanding of the historical background of the Equal Protection Clause; explained the constitutional powers and rights relevant to the court cases and laws mentioned above; and discussed the important role of the Judicial Branch in preserving the rights of Americans to equal education. The winners of the essay contest are:

1st Place: Delaney Patterson, Cuthbertson High School, Waxhaw, NC

2nd Place: Daniel Coppinger, Simsbury High School, West Simsbury, CT

3rd Place: Emily Miller, Greenwich High School, Old Greenwich, CT

3rd Place: Jivan Jot Khalsa, South Eugene High School, Eugene, OR

3rd Place: Joelle Lum, Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY

The winners of the video contest are:
1st Place: Alessia Fontecchio, Fox Chapel Area High School, Pittsburgh, PA

2nd Place: Sen Feng, John Bowne High School, Flushing, NY

3rd Place: Connor Daley, Wetumpka High School, Wetumpka, AL

The top five essays will be published in the September issue of The Federal Lawyer. View the top three videos, posted by the entrants, at the following:

1st Place

2nd Place

3rd Place

More information about the prompt

Ratified on July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides, in part, that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Over the past 150 years, Congress and the courts have applied this “Equal Protection Clause” to our right to equal educational opportunities. Noteworthy court decisions include:

  • Mendez v. Westminster School District, decided in 1947, in which the placement of Mexican-American students into separate “Mexican schools” was found to violate their rights under the Equal Protection Clause;
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, decided in 1954, in which the placement of white and African-American students in different public schools on the basis of race was also found to violate the Equal Protection Clause;
  • Lau v. Nichols, decided in 1974, in which the lack of supplemental language instruction in public school for students with limited English proficiency was found to have violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, decided in 1978, and Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, decided in 2003, in which certain affirmative action policies used by two universities to increase minority enrollment were upheld while others were struck down; and
  • Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, decided in 2017, in which public schools were required, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to provide disabled students with opportunities to make meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” progress, such as grade-level advancement.

Congress applied the Equal Protection Clause to education by enacting laws governing state school programs or activities:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits exclusion of a student based solely on race, color or national origin;

  • Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, enacted in 1972, which prohibits exclusion of a student solely on the basis of sex;
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits exclusion of a student based solely on the basis of a disability; and
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990, which provides protections and educational opportunities for students with disabilities.


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